No – this is not another political blog post. Though the word “change” is most often used in the political arena, someone once told me that it is possible to talk about change in churches. (If only such borderline heretical conversations took place as often as the general election!)
I went over to see my grandparents last week. It didn’t take long for Grandpa, a retired ELCA pastor and a bit of a mover-and-shaker in his day, and I to start talking about church. (Church – the native tongue all Ullestad men speak fluently.) I started sharing some of my thoughts about the Emerging Church movement. Initially, he lumped the Emergent/ing conversation with all the other movements that have tried to gain traction over the past 60 years. He talked about splinter groups, para-church groups, and other malcontents that attempted to organize but ultimately failed. I can always count on Grandpa for a good history lesson.
As I explained what I understand to be the basic tenants of the movement – about how it’s pro-church and in many ways quite “Lutheran” – he became more intrigued. Eventually he was able to say, “it sounds like a positive movement” and concluded by talking about Luther’s understanding of semper reforma.
I felt he was starting to get it…or maybe he was just pandering me. Either way, the conversation I had with Grandpa is EXACTLY the kind of conversation that more church people need to have about the Emergent movement. For me, at this point in the church’s history, it’s all about having the courage to engage in the conversation.
Right now, most people in my denomination don’t have the desire or the courage to talk about it. It’s easier to dismiss the Emergent conversation as another fad or pissed-off group of lay people or “Baptists disguised as Lutherans”. As one of the most cynical and negative people I know, I firmly believe this conversation is not any of those things. As my new friend Jay Gamelin said today, it’s not about assigning labels to who we are, it’s about doing church well. I hope we as a denomination can dare to talk about enacting that kind of change – for the sake of the church and for the sake of the gospel.